By participating in a program that provides work opportunities for city high school students who are enrolled in a law magnate program, Nixon Peabody has been able to help city high school students build legal careers for the last ten years.
Sixteen-year-old Ashley Osborne is a high school student and an aspiring lawyer. Shaunte Carley, a mother of three who graduated from high school in 1996, is currently attending college so she, too, can one day practice law. Yantise Fulton, mother of two-year-old Azhari, graduated from high school in 2003 and is currently in college. She doesn’t want to go to law school, but she does want to work in the legal field.
And all three women have at least one thing in common: they were hired at Nixon Peabody through a program designed to provide opportunities for promising high school youth who have an interest in the law. The women chose the Law & Government Academy at Rochester’s John Marshall High School, signifying their interest in the legal field. They were subsequently selected by Nixon Peabody to participate in this unique opportunity aimed at helping young students realize their career dreams.
“Nixon Peabody has participated in this program, which provides work opportunities for city high school students who are enrolled in a law magnate program, since its inception. That’s been about ten years, and it has been very successful for us,” says Glenda Lusk, a Nixon Peabody administrator in the Rochester office who oversees the program.
“We currently employ three women who were hired through the program. Of the three, two are single moms who are attending school and working,” Glenda says.
To be chosen for the program, students need more than simply an interest in the law. They must also have good grades and attendance, which Nixon Peabody monitors throughout their employment to be sure that work does not interfere with school. The goal is to provide the students with real-world work experience, but the schedule is flexible to accommodate school obligations.
Shaunte has worked at Nixon Peabody since 1995, when she was a high school student. She started in Nixon Peabody’s mailroom, but has held several positions, all with increasing responsibilities. Currently, Shaunte works full-time in data management, where she is excelling. “Shaunte is new to the group, but she is already a superstar,” says Rita Douglas, Nixon Peabody’s support services manager in the Rochester office. When Shaunte began at Nixon Peabody, it was a temporary assignment. “They told me it was temporary, but I didn’t see a reason for it to not be permanent. I let them know that I had an interest in longer-term work and they offered me something when it came up,” she says. Shaunte was part of the first class to participate in the school/work program. “It helped me decide on a career path,” she says. In addition to her full-time work and her responsibilities as the mother of three children, ages 12, 6, and 5, Shaunte attends college and hopes to enroll in law school in the future.
Ashley also wants to attend law school, and she hopes the experience she is gaining at Nixon Peabody will help. “Working at Nixon Peabody teaches me about the law and can benefit my future career by allowing me to work with the attorneys. The best part of the job is being around so many different people. Every day it’s something new and different,” says Ashley, who works part-time in the mailroom while she continues her high school education.
Yantise also started in Nixon Peabody’s mail department, but she has been promoted to switchboard operator. She works part-time while she attends college, where she is studying business law. “I don’t want to be a lawyer, but I want to have some knowledge of the law,” she says. That knowledge has already helped Yantise negotiate in life. “From my law classes, I’ve learned what to sign and what not to sign when dealing with my landlord,” she says.
Negotiating challenges is an issue many of the students face when they begin the program. Rita Douglas serves as mentor to all of the students—a job that can require some individual counseling. “There is always an adjustment period. Many of the students initially have trouble making eye contact because they lack confidence. They also need coaching regarding appropriate attire and showing up on time for work. I believe in having a direct dialogue with them and it usually works out. The goal is to make it a good experience for everyone,” Rita says. While she doesn’t keep in touch with all of the students that have been through the program, she says many of them will call her periodically just to keep in touch—an extra reward for her efforts.